Tag: Colin Thurston

Friends Of Mine: The Legacy of DURAN DURAN

Photo by Fin Costello

DURAN DURAN were founded by Birmingham boys Nick Rhodes and John Taylor; the former was later to remark that “good taste is exclusive” and the pair showed it with a love of Bowie, Bolan, Roxy and Eno.

Following seeing THE HUMAN LEAGUE open for SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES, they saw the future and Rhodes’ mother made a £200 investment with the first Wasp synthesizer arriving in the Midlands while Taylor switched from guitar to bass.

Having recruited local drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor from Newcastle, after a revolving door of vocalists including Stephen Duffy (who would revisit the tapes from his time in the band with Nick Rhodes as THE DEVILS in 2002), Andy Wickett and Jeff Thomas, DURAN DURAN settled on London-born drama student and natural showman Simon Le Bon to complete the classic line-up.

In their developing incarnations, DURAN DURAN became the resident band at The Rum Runner nightclub owned by brothers Paul and Michael Berrow who eventually became their managers, with the three unrelated Taylors, Rhodes and Le Bon working as doormen, bar staff and DJs when not rehearsing. Nick Rhodes and John Taylor would later present ‘Only After Dark’, their own excellent compilation of music played at The Rum Runner during that period in 2006.

In late 1980, Michael Berrow remortaged his house to buy DURAN DURAN a slot to tour as the support act for Hazel O’Connor who was at the time, a rising star of new wave thanks to her starring role in the film ‘Breaking Glass’. The exposure led to them signing to EMI Records, swayed partly by the label’s patronage of THE BEATLES. In the audience for one of the shows was producer Colin Thurston who had worked with David Bowie and Iggy Pop as well as MAGAZINE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE; in DURAN DURAN, he had found his perfect band, one that appealed to both his electronic and art rock sensibilities.

Combining the disco sequencer drive of Giorgio Moroder, the funkier groove of CHIC and the anthemic qualities of glam rock, DURAN DURAN’s debut single ‘Planet Earth’ was released in early 1981. Strategically positioning themselves as New Romantics “looking for the TV sound”, the song reached No12 in the UK charts while the music press set them up as rivals to SPANDAU BALLET who had hit the Top5 at the end of 1980 with ‘To Cut Long Story Short’.

But Messrs Le Bon, Rhodes, Taylor, Taylor and Taylor were confident in their own abilities; “If that’s the best they can do, we’re not going to have too much to worry about” remembered Andy Taylor in his autobiography ‘Wild Boy’, especially as the superb ‘Planet Earth’ B-side ‘Late Bar’ proved to be another indicator of their talent.

DURAN DURAN were once described by The Guardian in 2015 as “an electronic band with a heavy rock guitarist bolted on” and for their first two classic albums, they sounded just like that. “We want to be the band to dance to when the bombs drop” said Le Bon during a period of heightened Cold War tensions. With ambitions to cross THE SEX PISTOLS with CHIC while also dropping in the electronic disco of Moroder, perhaps unsurprisingly, the quintet were clearly influenced by JAPAN, another young quintet who were turning heads with their good looks, flamboyant fashion sense and futuristic sound.

DURAN DURAN took the arty poise of JAPAN and toned down their androgynous outré to make it more accessible; they even employed Fin Costello who had photographed the ‘Quiet Life’ gatefold cover to do the images for their self-titled debut album. But the lead up did not go well when their second single ‘Careless Memories’ stalled at No37. But that band had ‘Girls On Film’ and several tricks up their sleeve.

With ‘Planet Earth’, rather than just simply extend a song by joining together sections of tape, DURAN DURAN actually took time to rearrange and re-record a 12 inch Night Version. From its opening Compurhythm beat and first instrumental chorus set to Nick Rhodes’ swimmy Crumar Performer to Simon Le Bon’s closing verse ad-lib, the freer Night Version of ‘Girls On Film’ would go on to form the basis of DURAN DURAN’s live versions. Then there was the controversial ‘Girls On Film’ video featuring scantily clad models, sumo warriors, mud wrestling, pillow fights, horseplay and ice cubes in which band only appeared in the background!

The full-length ‘Girls On Film’ video was not intended for TV broadcast and only to be shown in night clubs, but the outrage did the job as the band gained notoriety in both the music and tabloid press. An alternative ending even showed the band cheekily holding up a banner which read “SOME PEOPLE WILL DO ANYTHING TO SELL RECORDS”. However, their ironic take on exploitation was misunderstood but in the US, the banning of the video helped DURAN DURAN rather than hindered them.

Filled with excellent tracks such as ‘Anyone Out There’, ‘Night Boat’ and the dramatic orchestrated instrumental ‘Tel Aviv, the self-titled debut ‘Duran Duran’ long player would eventually reach No3 in the UK album charts. Aside from the singles, the key highlight was ‘Friends Of Mine’, a song that still gets regular airings at Duran gigs over 40 years on.

Launched by Nick Rhodes’ synth drones and a pulsing arpeggiator, the infectious chorus of “Georgie Davies is coming out…no more heroes, we twist and shout” was inspired by the ‘George Davis Is Innocent’ campaign of 1975. Davies’ friends dug up Headingley Cricket Ground before a Test match in protest at his conviction for armed robbery; he was later released but it turned out he wasn’t actually so innocent after all!!!

To close 1981, DURAN DURAN released ‘My Own Way’, a frenetic disco funk experiment with a string section which the band later felt was a mistake, no doubt disappointed by its No14 chart position. The single’s B-side ‘Like An Angel’ was also a surprise as a sprightly love song which pointed away from the New Romantics to the more mainstream pop ambition that their second opus ‘Rio’ would realise in Spring 1982.

Crucially, the band had toured like there was no tomorrow, unlike their arch rivals SPANDAU BALLET. While Simon Le Bon may not have had the greatest voice in the world, he had swagger. “Decadent DURAN DURAN?” he remarked on the ‘Top 10 New Romantics’ documentary back in 1999, “We weren’t, we were just hard working!”. Their live experiences, particularly in North America opening for BLONDIE allowed the band to realise their strengths, especially when they started getting encores and overshadowing the admittedly imploding headline act.

Working again with Colin Thurston, the ‘Rio’ album with its iconic Patrick Nagel cover image saw DURAN DURAN achieve a perfect balance between art and pop. “A dialogue between the ego and the alter-ego”, ‘New Religion’ was a highlight capturing a schizophrenic tension while ‘The Chauffeur’ threw in a drum machine, synths, treated piano and an ocarina alongside a closing monologue about insects, while there was also the erotic Helmut Newton-inspired visual accompaniment.

‘Hungry Like The Wolf’, ‘Save A Prayer’ and the title song provided the hits while ‘Last Chance On The Stairway’ could easily have been a viable single. ‘Hold Back The Rack’ became a fan favourite with its “life on the road” narrative but while the slowed down re-recording of ‘My Own Way’ had more muscle than its original orchestrated incarnation, it paled next to the other tracks.

As the band toured the UK in support of ‘Rio’, the theatres began to be filled with hysterical teenage girls known as Duranies while their earlier artier club audience moved on. On the other side of the Atlantic, DURAN DURAN were making headway via MTV with their exotically located videos for ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ and ‘Save A Prayer’ while ‘Rio’ captured the quintet as the most famous boat crew.

Issued to ensure DURAN DURAN attained the coveted UK No1 slot in Spring 1983, the interim ‘Is There Something I Should Know?’ was an exclusively single only release with completely different versions featured on the 7 and 12 inch formats. As well as an overly strained chorus, it featured Le Bon’s dreadfully unforgettable lyric “You’re about as easy as a nuclear war!” during which Andy Taylor pulled a knowing smirk in the accompanying promo video. Meanwhile the band’s American label Capitol cashed in by appending the track onto a repackage of the self-titled debut long player.

Now tax exiles, writing for the all-important and difficult third album began in France before recording took place in Montserrat and Australia with new producer Alex Sadkin in association with Ian Little who had helmed ‘Is There Something I Should Know?’; titled ‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’, the “Seven” were the five band members plus the Berrow brothers while “The Ragged Tiger” was fame!

There were reports that certain members of the band had settled into a snowy oblivion with John Taylor in particular dancing the Hokey Cokey with party brother Andy while also building a reputation as a master swordsman! Things were additionally becoming tense with good old-fashioned music differences. Andy and John Taylor felt that DURAN DURAN’s sound was becoming too synthy and polished; this disillusionment would ultimately lead to the pair forming the more rock-oriented side-project THE POWER STATION with Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson.

Falling under the spell of David Bowie’s success with ‘Let’s Dance’, the first single ‘Union Of The Snake’ was a stilted pastiche of it. But purchasers found a treat in its B-side ‘Secret Oktober’, an atmospheric synth ballad free of guitars that showcased more esoteric influences; written by Le Bon and Rhodes, in hindsight this now comes over as the beginning of ARCADIA which the artier pair went on to record as, result in the lush but pretentiously self-indulgent ‘So Red The Rose’ album released in late 1985.

Despite being a multi-million seller, ‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’ was a disappointing follow-up to ‘Rio’. Songs such as ‘(I’m Looking For) Cracks in the Pavement’ and ‘The Seventh Stranger’ laboured their points, but there were highlights such as the feisty ‘Shadows on Your Side’, the still underrated single ‘New Moon On Monday’ and ‘Tiger Tiger’, possibly the best JAPAN instrumental that Sylvian and Co never recorded.

The ‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’ album sessions had not been a happy experience with the prolonged mixing leading to a fall out between John Taylor and Alex Sadkin. The band felt in particular that the opening song ‘The Reflex’ had potential but had not been fully realised. Enter Nile Rodgers who gave the track a rhythmic lift and played around with the then-newish innovation of sampling, using various vocals to create new hooks and phrases for a monster international No1 in the UK and the US.

Following a lucrative sell-out US tour, it was live document time with the release of the ‘Arena’ album and film, as well as the ‘Sing Blue Silver’ behind-the-scenes documentary in late 1984. Accompanying these products was a new bombastic over-the-top single ‘The Wild Boys’ produced by Nile Rodgers, originally written for a lavish film project to be directed by Russell Mulcahy based on the same titled William Burroughs’ book which ultimately fell through.

‘The Wild Boys’ had been heavily influenced by FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD who had hit No1 with ‘Realx’ earlier in 1984 but in the studio, creative tensions came to a head. Legend has it that a mischievous Andy Taylor deliberately wrote ‘The Wild Boys’ in a key that the limited but passionate voice of Le Bon would struggle with; the singer would later retaliate in kind with the line “who really gives a damn for a flaky bandit?” in ‘Notorious’.

The end of 1984 saw DURAN DURAN beat arch rivals SPANDAU BALLET in a Christmas special edition of the BBC’s ‘Pop Quiz’, although it was revealed a few years later that an A&R man from EMI had pulled a few strings to get the questions and answers leaked to the band. But as the quintet divided into ARCADIA and THE POWER STATION with Roger Taylor in the middle contributing to both factions, they reconvened in 1985 for ‘A View To A Kill’, the theme to the 14th film of the James Bond franchise. Netting another US No1, it was to be the last hurrah for the classic line-up.

After a tense and strained appearance at Live Aid in Philadelphia, Roger and Andy Taylor exited the band… the drummer was exhausted by the pressure of being part of a mega-successful band while the guitarist felt he could take his own axeman dreams to the next level without the restrictions of the band format.

The remaining trio attempted to get Andy Taylor back into DURAN DURAN for their fourth long player ‘Notorious’ released in 1986. However, the matter ended up in litigation with the guitarist reluctantly contributing to ‘A Matter Of Feeling’, ‘American Science’ and ‘Proposition’. However, the album’s remaining six string duties fell to MISSING PERSONS’ Warren Cuccurullo and the album’s producer Nile Rodgers.

Although the album was notable for the funkier excursions of the title song and ‘Skin Trade’, the solemn synth laden art piece ‘Winter Marches On’ was the highlight and very reminiscent of ARCADIA, only much better. While very well produced and played, the ‘Notorious’ album did not have the run of hits that characterised its predecessors. But the fact that it was even made meant that for now at least, DURAN DURAN had a future.

With new producers Jonathan Elias and Daniel Abraham, the ‘Big Thing’ album of 1988 saw a more programmed electronic approach with a drum machine being used for writing purposes and John Taylor putting aside his bass guitar. One of the results was ‘All She Wants Is’, possibly the closest DURAN DURAN have come to replicating the robotic overtures of KRAFTWERK which became a surprise UK Top 10 hit.

While songs such as ‘I Don’t Want Your Love’ and ‘Drug (It’s A State Of Mind)’ had a vibrancy thanks to their house music influences, the remainder of ‘Big Thing’ was plagued by underwhelming AOR such as ‘Land’. As the decade concluded, DURAN DURAN’s fortunes were beginning to wane with show attendances dropping although their first if incomplete greatest hits collection ‘Decade’ went Top5 in the UK.

Employing Chris Kimsey who had worked with THE ROLLING STONES and THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS as producer, 1990’s ‘Liberty’ was an attempt to capture the spark of DURAN DURAN’s classic five-piece band format with guitarist Warren Cuccurullo and drummer Sterling Campbell joining the fold. Despite good intensions, the album’s launch single ‘Violence Of Summer (Love’s Taking Over)’ was rotten. Full of lame plod rock, the unloved ‘Liberty’ album did have a saving grace in the haunting ‘My Antartica’, often considered by Duranies as the great lost song in the band’s portfolio.

While Sterling Campbell left to join David Bowie’s live band, Warren Cuccurullo remained with DURAN DURAN and became was inspirational in revitalising the remaining trio for what was to become known as ‘The Wedding Album’ in 1993. Setting up a studio in Cuccurullo’s Battersea home, a back-to-basics songwriting approach yielded the huge hits ‘Ordinary World’ and ‘Come Undone’. The groovy beat-laden ‘None Of The Above’ was another of the highlights from ‘The Wedding Album’ while ‘Too Much Information’ proved to be extremely prophetic.

But having re-established themselves internationally with ‘The Wedding Album’, DURAN DURAN snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with the 1995 covers compendium ‘Thank You’. Often considered by critics as one of the worst albums ever recorded, Le Bon’s vocals on ‘White Lines (Don’t Do It)’ were more comical than awful although the take on THE DOORS’ ‘The Crystal Ship’ was actually quite enjoyable.

In amongst all the ham reinterpretations of established standards, the band actually covered themselves in a new version of ‘The Chauffeur’ entitled ‘Drive By’. And while Lou Reed described the DURAN DURAN version of ‘Perfect Day’ as being potentially the best re-recording of any of his songs, it was notable for the return of Roger Taylor in a guest drummer role.

By 1997, DURAN DURAN were in a state of turmoil; Simon Le Bon was experiencing writer’s block while John Taylor was suffering from depression and left halfway through the recording of the next album ‘Medazzaland’. This state of affairs led to Nick Rhodes working more closely with guitarist Warren Cuccurullo and the keyboardist taking a spoken word lead on the title track of the album. Worse was to come as the end product was only released in the US, resulting in the end of the band’s tenure with EMI.

Despite all the problems, during this period, DURAN DURAN released the first song available for digital purchase on the internet. Featuring lyrics penned by Nick Rhodes about falling in love with a robot, the deviant ‘Electric Barbarella’ was a close relative to ‘Hold Back The Rain’, with screeching guitars alongside the processed electronics.

Included as part of a new hits compilation entitled ‘Greatest’, 1998 saw DURAN DURAN reinvigorated and back in demand as a live act in the UK. Despite having no Taylors in the line-up, audiences still suffering from the hangover that was Britpop were yearning for the very music which Cool Britannia had all but buried.

But in 2000, DURAN DURAN again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with the disastrous ‘Pop Trash’. Self-produced, it had been a difficult album for the band to make and remains their worst selling long playing record to date. After a lukewarm world tour, Le Bon declared that he no longer wanted to work with Cuccurullo.

When Le Bon and Rhodes called in on John Taylor at his Los Angeles home for a social meet-up, the bassist suggested reuniting the classic line-up; the subsequent world tour starting in 2003, which also saw Roger and Andy Taylor return, was a triumph. The ‘Live From London’ DVD filmed during the 2004 leg was a rare artefact in capturing the energy and thrills of the reunion in a terrific set comprising of hits, fan favourites and new material.

Signing to Sony Music and heralding the classic line-up’s first album together since ‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’, the anthemic lead single ‘Sunrise’ recaptured that bouncy old DURAN DURAN magic. However, the long awaited 2005 long player ‘Astronaut’ did not meet expectations with far too many producers like Nile Rodgers, Dallas Austin and Don Gilmore involved, although ‘Want You More!’ and ‘What Happens Tomorrow’ were the best of not a very good bunch.

The proposed back-to-basics follow-up album ‘Reportage’ was rejected by Sony, leading to Andy Taylor leaving for the second time. At the suggestion of the label, who according to Roger Taylor wanted something “a bit pop”, the involvement of Timbaland and Justin Timberlake on 2007’s ‘Red Carpet Massacre’ confused fans and critics alike. While the resulting album was another mixed bag, the synth heavy pulse of ‘The Valley’ was a terrific standout along with the energetic ‘Zoom In’.

Now without a record deal, DURAN DURAN had another rethink and their persistent efforts bore artistic fruit with 2011’s brilliant ‘All You Need Is Now’ initially released as a nine-track album via Nick Rhodes’ Tape Modern imprint exclusively on iTunes. Produced by Mark Ronson, the New York based Londoner was keen to see DURAN DURAN reclaim their quintessential sound by aiming for the funk-led electronic based art pop of their first two albums and hailed it as the “real follow-up to ‘Rio’”.

Nick Rhodes agreed that ‘All You Need Is Now’ was “undoubtedly one of the strongest of our career” as DURAN DURAN refound their creative stride. The mighty title song was like a glitterball ‘Are Friends Electric?’ with a message to enjoy the moment while ‘Being Followed’ was superb sequencer assisted number with the tingling metallic edge of THE CURE’s ‘A Forest’ that captured the paranoia of today’s surveillance society.

Recalling the wonderful ambience of ‘Tel Aviv’ from the self-titled debut album alongside the haunting spectre of ‘The Chauffeur’, ‘The Man Who Stole A Leopard’ was dreamily augmented by songstress Kelis and string arrangements by Owen Pallett. Meanwhile, ‘Girl Panic’, ‘Too Bad You’re So Beautiful’ and ‘Runaway Runaway’ were unmistakably classic DURAN DURAN at their danceable poppy best.

For the third time in their up and down career, DURAN DURAN again stole defeat from the jaws of victory with the gloriously under par ‘Paper Gods’ in 2015. Largely produced by Mr Hudson, it was an ill-advised attempt to get down with Da Kidz. The excruciatingly painful dance anthem ‘Last Night In The City’ was a particular low point but ‘Face For Today’ was a synth laden number in the classic DURAN DURAN vein, while the funky Nile Rodgers and Mark Ronson produced ‘Pressure Off’ featuring singer Janelle Monáe stopped things from being a complete disaster.

But as ever, DURAN DURAN got back on track and celebrating 40 years as recording artists, their 15th studio album ‘Future Past’ was a “live for the moment” statement of how a something today can become a cherished memory in times to come. Connecting with one of their biggest influences, two of the album’s best tracks ‘Beautiful Lies’ and ‘Tonight United’ were produced by Giorgio Moroder, delivering what was expected but that was no bad thing.

The majority of ‘Future Past’ was helmed by British producer Erol Alkan of BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE fame while Graham Coxon of BLUR contributed guitar. Among the other highlights were the chiptune inspired ‘More Joy!’ featuring chants by Japanese rock band CHAI and a syncopated disco poise capturing DURAN DURAN at what they do best. Meanwhile, the appropriately named ‘Anniversary’ provided Easter eggs with hints of ‘The Wild Boys’, ‘Girls On Film’ and ‘Save A Prayer’ in an ode to four decades of friendship. Overall, ‘Future Past’ was a vast improvement on ‘Paper Gods’.

The end of 2022 saw DURAN DURAN inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame with all of the original quintet invited to the ceremony. But Andy Taylor was unable to attend and it was learned that the guitarist was battling Stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer. However, this sad news has instigated a new project which sees Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor and Andy Taylor recording together again, along with the new and past members of the extended Duran family for an album to be released on BMG at the end of 2023.

As DURAN DURAN embark on another world tour, their longevity through their triple ups and downs to a current upward trajectory is a testament to how when you’ve got it, you might lose your way, but you can re-focus and get the muse back. Although considered a boy band of their day, their musicality gave them a broad crossover appeal. The bottom line of DURAN DURAN’s enduring legacy is great timeless pop songs swathed in aspiration.


The hardback photo book ‘Careless Memories’ by Denis O’Regan featuring contributions from all members of the band is published by ACC Art Books

DURAN DURAN UK + Ireland 2023 live dates include:

Manchester AO Arena (29th April), London O2 (1st + 2nd May), Leeds First Direct Arena (4th May), Birmingham Utilita Arena (5th May), Dublin3 Arena (7th May)

http://www.duranduran.com/

https://www.facebook.com/duranduran/

https://twitter.com/duranduran

https://www.instagram.com/duranduran/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
7th April 2023

MUSIK, MUSIC, MUSIQUE 1980 | The Dawn Of Synth Pop

1977 is often seen as Year Zero for synthpop, thanks to hit singles by DONNA SUMMER, SPACE and JEAN-MICHEL JARRE.

But it was not until 1979 with TUBEWAY ARMY reaching No1 with ‘Are Friends Electric?’ that the sound of synth truly hit the mainstream.

Although ‘No1 Song In Heaven’ by SPARKS had actually been a hit a few months earlier, ‘Are Friends Electric?’ was the beginning of the synth being accepted as a worthy mode of expression, rather than as a novelty. But as synths became more affordable, they became the perfect tool of youthful expression.

From Cherry Red, makers of the excellent ’Electrical Language: Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ 4CD boxed set, comes ‘Musik Music Musique’; subtitled ‘1980: The Dawn Of Synth Pop’, this 3CD 58 track collection explores the arrival of synth pop and the dawn of a new musical era. This was the year before the synth became the rule rather than the exception with the success of SOFT CELL and DEPECHE MODE.

The set starts appropriately with OMD and ‘Messages’, one of the first tunes showcasing the warmer side of electronics following the colder wave led by Messrs Numan and Foxx. But as if to counter this next generation of youngsters, ‘Messages’ is immediately followed by the collection’s vocoder laden title song ‘Musik Music Musique’ from Zeus B Held and the superb proto-industrial ode to loveless sex ‘Coitus Interruptus’ by the much missed FAD GADGET.

Zeus B Held was later to make his impression on popular culture remixing ALPHAVILLE and SIMPLE MINDS as well producing the likes of FASHION, DEAD OR ALIVE, SPEAR OF DESTINY and TRANSVISION VAMP, but his wider breakthrough came as part of GINA X PERFORMANCE in 1979 with The Blitz Club favourite ‘No GDM’; on this compendium, the lesser-known but just as worthy ‘Vendor’s Box’ from their second album ‘X-Traordinaire’ is deservedly provided a platform.

The best producers often earn their spurs as artists and realising their limitations, use their accumulated studio nous to subvert the mainstream via pop. ‘Astroboy’ by BUGGLES sees Trevor Horn develop his sonic architecture to prove that he had another song that wasn’t ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’. Meanwhile the welcome inclusion of NEW MUSIK’s other hit ‘This World Of Water’ allows Tony Mansfield to showcase the crafted sparkle that would later go on to adorn records by CAPTAIN SENSIBLE, VICIOUS PINK, A-HA and NAKED EYES.

It may seem strange to see SPANDAU BALLET as part of this package but when they first appeared, they were considered a synthesizer band; ‘Glow’ was a UK double A side single with ‘Musclebound’ in 1981 and while it was the last synth-led track they did, their funk soul aspirations were there for all to hear. In fact, songwriter Gary Kemp had conceived ‘Glow’ with a brass section in mind, so it is now something of a curio that could be seen as a precursor to ‘Chant No1’.

SPANDAU BALLET were produced by Richard James Burgess who co-designed the Simmons SDSV; his electro-jazz combo LANDSCAPE figure with the Colin Thurston helmed ‘European Man’ which was actually designated “electronic dance music” on its single artwork some three decades before it was appropriated and abbreviated to become EDM…

Many of the usual suspects from the period like VISAGE, JAPAN, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING are all present and correct with familiar recordings, but interestingly (although not for the better), it’s the original version of Phil Lynott’s ‘Yellow Pearl’ without the Rusty Egan drums or the Midge Ure remix that gets the nod!

One of the main beauties of these thoughtfully curated collections is to be able sway away from the obvious and feature a known-name with a lesser-known work; in the case of ULTRAVOX, it’s the occasionally Eno-inspired and Conny Plank produced ‘Waiting’ which was the B-side to their first Midge Ure fronted single ‘Sleepwalk’. Meanwhile, SUICIDE are represented by the excellent Ric Ocasek produced ‘Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne’ and YELLO with ‘Bimbo’, the oddball opener of the Swiss trailblazers’ debut long player ‘Solid Pleasure’.

SILICON TEENS get to feature with something other than ‘Memphis Tennessee’ and it’s the Daniel Miller‘s self-penned instrumental ‘Chip N Roll’ that has the honour, while the Mute Records founder gets another track in with ‘Brushing Your Hair’, a gloriously vibrant instrumental production and co-write for Alex Fergusson of ALTERNATIVE TV.

There’s additionally tracks by lesser known international acts or those bands that faded from view after effectively being one hit wonders. The entire career of M may have been overshadowed by the ubiquitous ‘Pop Muzik’ but Robin Scott did go on to release three albums and work with Ryuichi Sakamoto; the sombre ‘Official Secrets’ may not really have much of a hook but it contains some percolating bleepy sections that pre-date KRAFTWERK’s ‘Home Computer’ by one year.

‘A Circuit Like Me’ from Australian combo, THE METRONOMES actually sounds very 21st century with its detached female vocal and charming monosynths, while the gallop of ‘Drawn & Quartered’ by THE KORGIS is a worthy find. Now while ROCKETS found fame with a catchy robotic flavoured cover of ‘On The Road Again’ with the help of Zeus B Held, the silver faced Italians found that the vocoder suited their performance art poise and reapplied it for the self-penned space rocker ‘Galactica’.

Also possessing a bit of a gallop is LORI & THE CHAMELEONS’ wispy Morricone-influenced single ‘The Lonely Spy’ although with its acoustic strum, it is quite different from the understated electronic disco of their best known track ‘Touch’. Cut from a similar melodic post-punk cloth, the Martin Hannett produced ‘Sympathy’ from PAULINE MURRAY & THE INVISIBLE GIRLS is a reminder of how women were coming to the fore after punk in synth-assisted new wave, a fact borne out on ‘Musik Music Musique’ by the inclusion of more obscure works from TOYAH, KIM WILDE and HAZEL O’CONNOR.

‘Musik Music Musique’ is also an opportunity to become reacquainted with lost tunes of yore and ‘The Eyes Have It’ by KAREL FIALKA will be remembered by those who owned the 1980 Virgin Records compilation ‘Machines’, as will the octave driven ‘Destiny’ by DALEK I LOVE YOU. Some enjoyably avant pop adventures come courtesy of XYNN’s ‘Computed Man’ and SCIENCE’s ‘Tokyo’, while one of the more bizarre but successful experiments included is ‘I’m A Computer’ by THE GOO-Q.

One of the lesser known acts featuring with the eccentric ‘Money’ is MOEBIUS, not the member of German duo CLUSTER but an American art rock band with a penchant for DEVO. ‘Doctor …?’ by BLOOD DONOR is another wonderful discovery while of the more experimental art pieces included, NINI RAVIOLETTE’s ‘Suis-Je Normale’ delightfully comes over like a collaboration between Jane Birkin and Laurie Anderson.

Düsseldorf is often seen as the spiritual home of electronic music and there is worthy representation from DER PLAN and ‘Da Vorne Steht Ne Ampel’ illustrating how there were other dimensions to German electronic music other than that engineered by KRAFTWERK. But closing the set is the band named after the Electri_City itself, LA DÜSSELDORF with the light-hearted ‘Dampfriemen’; a quirky slice of synth “Oompah” with comedic chants and a kazoo section, it sums up the manic oddball nature of the former NEU! drummer Klaus Dinger.

There are many other tracks that have merit, but textures which reoccur on ‘Musik Music Musique’ to date stamp the period are the icy chill of the affordable ARP Quartet string machine and squawky sax, although not in an overblown jazz funk way.

Despite ‘Musik Music Musique’ comprising of a carefully researched tracklisting, a few errors do slip through; as well as the SPANDAU BALLET track being released in 1981 as already mentioned (although it was available on a very scarce Japanese-only promo sampler in late 1980), the version of ‘Kebabträume’ by DAF is the 1982 Conny Plank version from the Virgin album ‘Für Immer’ and not the Bob Giddens produced Mute Records five piece band recording which actually came out in 1980.

Then in the booklet, the Foxx fronted 1977 line-up of ULTRAVOX! gets illustrated as opposed to the New Romantic suited Midge Ure one, while LA DÜSSELDORF’s Hans Lampe is referred to as a “Keyboard Whizz” when he is actually a drummer and now performs with Michael Rother who was Klaus Dinger’s partner in NEU!; in fact Dinger handled keyboards himself under the pseudonym of Nikolaus Van Rhein.

Those are minor quibbles though, because this set is very good value and acts as a great music history lesson as well as offering the chance to hear some new vintage synth. While many may have heard of BERLIN BLONDES, THE PASSAGE, THE FALLOUT CLUB and EYELESS IN GAZA, only a few will have heard their music.

‘Musik Music Musique’ offers something of a low risk opportunity to make some new friends while becoming reacquainted with a few old and lost ones. Here’s to the 1981 follow-up set…


‘Musik Music Musique – 1980: The Dawn Of Synth Pop’  is released on 31st July 2020 as a 3CD boxed set by Cherry Red Records

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/musik-music-musique-1980-the-dawn-of-synth-pop-various-artists-3cd/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13th July 2020

ZAINE GRIFF Interview

Born in Auckland to Danish parents, Zaine Griff possesses a musical CV that is impressive, reading like a Who’s Who of popular music.

First a bassist and vocalist with Kiwi rock band THE HUMAN INSTINCT, he left in 1975 and moved to London where he had stints in BABY FACE and SCREEMER before going on to study mime under Lindsay Kemp alongside Kate Bush. As a result, he joined Kemp’s production of a play written by Jean Genet called ‘Flowers’.

In 1979, Zaine Griff launched his solo career with future film music composer Hans Zimmer and ULTRAVOX drummer Warren Cann among the members of his backing band for an appearance at the Reading Festival.

With his Aladdin Sane-inspired persona, he was soon signed by Automatic Records, a subsidiary of Warner Bros who brought in Tony Visconti to produce his debut solo album ‘Ashes & Diamonds’. It spawned the 1980 single ‘Tonight’ but it peaked at No54 in the UK Singles Chart, partly due to an already recorded appearance on ‘Top Of The Pops’ not being shown due to a Musicians Union strike.

It was during these recording sessions for ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ that David Bowie walked in to visit Visconti and was slightly taken aback by the resemblance between himself and Griff. Despite this, Bowie invited Griff be part of the band to record three new versions of his songs for an upcoming appearance on the 1979 Kenny Everett New Year Show.

One of them was ‘Space Oddity’ which later surfaced as the flipside to ‘Alabama Song’ while another was ‘Panic In Detroit’ that later appeared as a bonus track on the Ryko CD reissue of the ’Scary Monsters’ album; the re-recording of ‘Rebel Rebel’ has yet to see the light of day.

The second Zaine Griff album ‘Figvres’ was released in 1982 and saw Hans Zimmer stepping up to the producer role. It ultimately laid the groundwork for the German musician’s eventual career in Hollywood. Also featuring on the album were Kate Bush and Yukihiro Takahashi from YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA. Around this time, Griff held an art exhibition of his drawings in London’s Ebury Galley, to which his friend and contemporary artist Mark Wardel also contributed.

Meanwhile in 1983, Griff collaborated on six songs for Hans Zimmer and Warren Cann’s ambitious HELDEN album ‘Spies’ which despite the independently released duet with Linda Allan titled ‘Holding On’ being issued as a single in advance, remains officially unreleased. After recording with Midge Ure and Gary Numan, Griff returned to New Zealand in 1984.

In 2011, Zaine Griff made a comeback with his third album ‘Child Who Wants The Moon’ and returned to the live stage. While he has continued releasing albums and touring regularly, his music was being discovered by a cool young audience, thanks to American rockers MGMT covering ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ during their concerts in 2018. Zaine Griff kindly spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK from his home in New Zealand about his music career.

Your debut solo album ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ was produced by Tony Visconti, how did that come about?

Tony Visconti was brought in to produce my debut album ‘Ashes and Diamonds’ by my record company MD Nick Mobbs at Automatic Records which was part of Warner Bros. When Tony heard my demos, he wanted to work with me.

It was during the recording of the ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ album that you were introduced to David Bowie and he had a proposal?

I was introduced to David Bowie by Tony at Good Earth studios. David had just returned from recording the Berlin trilogy and was wanting Tony to produce some tracks for a TV show. He had heard what I was doing and asked me if we could back him.

How did you run into Hans Zimmer and his batcave of synths?

Colin Thurston introduced me to Hans Zimmer when Colin brought Hans into Utopia studios to play keyboards on some demos I was recording there. Everything from that session onwards, Hans played on. As Hans said to me only last year: “I was your keyboard player”. In fact, he was much more than that. All the live work, studio work, Hans was with me, as I was with him during his HELDEN project.

You were frequenting The Blitz Club, what appealed to you about its atmosphere and how did you find the characters you met there?

I met Steve Strange at Legends night club. My manager Campbell Palmer owned Legends. I met so many amazing artists at Legends, we would dance and hangout till day break, often we would go to The Blitz Club or The Embassy. Everyone seemed to know each other and were supportive of each other. This is how I met Rusty Egan and Midge Ure, Boy George, Marilyn and so on.

Did it take much to persuade Rusty Egan to appear in your ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ video for the single?

I wanted at the time for Rusty to drum for me and Gary Tibbs to play bass. Well, they performed in the video of ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ and then they both were doing other projects. I tried!!

How do you feel about the American indie rock band MGMT covering ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ on their 2018 live tour?

Fantastic! I would love to meet them one day. It’s so cool when a younger generation plays your music in respect of the song and the composition. I was thrilled to say the least, I have followed them ever since.

Hans Zimmer had moved up to the producer role on ‘Figvres’ and it was to prove inspiring for his later soundtrack career?

I had to convince Nick Mobbs of Automatic Records to allow Hans Zimmer to produce my second album ‘Figvres’. So much so that Nick allowed Hans to co-produce and Nick would allow us to complete the album based on the first two weeks of recording. He loved what he heard and gave us his blessing to finish.

Up until then, Hans had only produced a single for THE DAMNED. ‘Figvres’ was his first album production. And indeed he is entitled to a full production credit for everything he put into ‘Figvres’ and of course Steve Rance, Hans’ engineer… what a team!

You had a good friendship with Warren Cann from ULTRAVOX who played on the ‘Figvres’ album too?

I heard ULTRAVOX on the John Peel show. I went out and brought ‘Systems Of Romance’ only because of the drummer. I had to meet this guy and work with him. I wanted Warren so much, I called Island Records, got his number, went to his flat and convinced him to play at the Reading Festival with me, and that’s how Hans and Warren met in rehearsal for Reading Festival.

The song ‘Flowers’ was dedicated to the late Lindsay Kemp and had Kate Bush singing backing vocals, what was it like working with her?

Working with Kate Bush was beautiful. She and I had studied under Lindsay Kemp, so it was easy for her to understand the ‘Flowers’ song and the emotion of the composition. ‘Flowers’ the show was a massive inspiration. Nothing comes near ‘Flowers’. So powerful, so dramatic and a huge inspiration to us both.

Hans Zimmer and Warren Cann formed HELDEN and you sang on the single ‘Holding On’, but the album on which you sang another five songs has never had an official release, do you consider it to be a lost classic?

I spent a whole year, most days and nights with Hans and Warren on the HELDEN project mainly at Snake Ranch Studios. I did a radio promotional tour with Hans. By then he was swept off his feet by film directors. Alas Hollywood.

What was the idea behind you recording a cover of ULTRAVOX’s ‘Passionate Reply’ with Midge Ure?

Chris O’Donnell suggested I do some recording with Midge. He played me ‘Passionate Reply’ on an acoustic, I had not heard it before and I just loved it. We recorded in his Chiswick studio. We recorded enough material for an album and the masters were stored at Rock City Studios with Gary Numan’s mum. I loved working with Midge. I had known Midge from when he was in SLIK. The band I was playing with at the time were the support to SLIK. I knew then just how good he was.

Looking back, we were so naive to it all. ULTRAVOX was managed by Chris O’Donnell and Chris Morrison, they were my production management company and production company to VISAGE. See how close knit we all were? And of course they managed THIN LIZZY.

There was that TV appearance performing ‘Passionate Reply’ on ‘The Freddie Starr Show’? What can you remember about that?

I was told I was to go to Manchester and do this show. All I wanted to do was not do it. Hated the whole tacky production. Still I stood up there alone and did it.

You recorded ‘This Strange Obsession’ with Yukihiro Takahashi and Ronny, that’s quite an international combination?

I had worked with Ronny on one of my songs ‘It’s A Sin’ with Hans producing her and Yukihiro approached me to write for him. I asked Ronny to join us. That was amazing working with Yukihiro. The translation barrier was understood with music.

Although you never recorded together, there’s a photo of you with Steve Strange and Mick Karn, what was the occasion?

That photo of Mick, Steve and I was at my art exhibition at the Ebury Gallery Victoria.

Gary Numan invited you to duet with him on ‘The Secret’ from ‘Berserker’, it has a good chemistry, how did you find working in the studio with him?

Gary Numan called me asked me to work on ‘Berserker’ just out of the blue. He was great to work with, I remember him doing takes faster than what I was used to; if he liked that take, that was it. Midge was like that as well. They knew what they wanted.

You returned with your third album ‘Child Who Wants The Moon’ in 2011, what was behind what appeared to be a lengthy hiatus?

It was a lengthy hiatus because I was burnt out, exhausted, not well, I had to go. I was not in a great space. I decided to try and get well again and stop wanting the moon… you know wanting the impossible.

You’ve released the albums ‘The Visitor’ and ‘Mood Swings’ since then and have returned to performing live again. Was that aspect something you’d missed over the years?

My problem is I cannot stop composing. I recorded ‘The Visitor’ and ‘Mood Swings’ purely for composition fulfilment. In the liner notes of ‘Mood Swings’, you can see the album is dedicated to Steve Strange.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Zaine Griff

‘Ashes & Diamonds’ and ‘Figvres’ are still available via Mig Music on the usual digital platforms

https://www.zainegriff.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Zainegriff.officialnews/

https://twitter.com/ZaineGriffOffic

https://www.instagram.com/zainegriff/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
13th February 2020, updated 11th October 2022

Lost Albums: TALK TALK The Party’s Over

Following the sad passing of Mark Hollis, front man and songwriter of TALK TALK, many of the obituaries that followed focussed on their final two records ‘Spirit Of Eden’ and ‘Laughing Stock’.

But very little mention was made of TALK TALK’s 1982 debut long player ‘The Party’s Over’. Even Alan Wilder, executive producer of the 2012 tribute ‘Spirit Of Talk Talk’, admitted that although “I liked the sound of the singles ‘Today’ and ‘Talk Talk’”, he had “never heard the first album” adding “In fact I still haven’t heard that album in full.”

Synthpop has often had a credibility problem, especially among too cool for school hipster writers and even so-called commentators of electronic music. But ‘Spirit Of Eden’ and ‘Laughing Stock’ might not have happened had TALK TALK not had the single success in 1982 during one of the most exciting and enjoyable years in music.

It was a year that saw ASSOCIATES, SOFT CELL, SIMPLE MINDS and JAPAN slugging it out in the Top40 alongside ABC, DURAN DURAN, SPANDAU BALLET, YAZOO, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, VISAGE, ULTRAVOX, DEPECHE MODE and BLANCMANGE, while HEAVEN 17, CHINA CRISIS and B-MOVIE were knocking on the door and looking for a way in.

At the time, TALK TALK comprised of Paul Webb on bass, Lee Harris on drums and crucially Simon Brenner on keyboards who came armed with a Roland RS09 and Oberheim OBXa. Signing to EMI, TALK TALK were originally dismissed by the press as DURAN DURAN copyists as they shared the same label, the same producer in Colin Thurston and even had a repeated word name!

Released in July 1982, ‘The Party’s Over’ was an impressive synth flavoured collection devoid of guitar that very much captured the sound of the era with its thundering Simmons drums and fretless bass. It opened with the very immediate ‘Talk Talk’, a heated song which began life in 1977 as a song for THE REACTION, a punk band that Hollis was in, which was co-written by his brother Eddie Hollis who managed EDDIE & THE HOT RODS.

Although it flopped on its initial single release in April 1982, it belatedly became a hit later that Autumn in a remix by ROXY MUSIC producer Rhett Davies. ‘Talk Talk’ possessed an anguish and frustration in Hollis’ voice like Bryan Ferry through clenched teeth and it was a seed that was to serve him well through the band’s small recorded portfolio.

A band composition, ‘It’s So Serious’ was a delightful number influenced by OMD with catchy hooks and the then state-of-the-art production techniques. But things were to get even better. The moody ‘Today’ dominated by Webb’s melodic bass playing showed TALK TALK had more in common with artistically thoughtful bands like JAPAN rather than more obvious pop combos like DURAN DURAN; it reached No14 in the UK singles charts but deserved to go much higher.

The template of Sylvian & Co was taken further with the magnificent title track, another band composition which made impressive use of penetrating oriental overtones and an epic gothic backdrop for the track’s conclusion.

Beginning the second side, the aggressive chant-laden ‘Hate’ did as the title suggested, frantically laced with Harris’ reverberant percussive barrages reminiscent of ULTRAVOX’s live version of ‘The Voice’ from that period.

The serious lyrical matter of the solemn ‘Have You Heard the News?’ with a narrative about the aftermath of a car accident highlighted how TALK TALK were indeed not part of the SPANDAU BALLET league. But the album exposed its weak link with the ploddy ‘Mirror Man’, surprisingly issued as the first TALK TALK single with its noticeable BEATLES-influenced string aesthetics.

But it all got back on track with ‘Another Word’, a song from the solo pen of Paul Webb and his only one in the TALK TALK catalogue. With an enjoyably memorable chant and uptempo rhythm construction, it was released in its own right as a single in Germany thanks to its use in the domestic TV detective series ‘Derrick’.

That German single was backed with ‘Candy’ which closed ‘The Party’s Over’. Here, TALK TALK aped FOREIGNER and featured some fabulous piano playing from Brenner; it was a final moment that was to be symbolic.

Although there was an excellent interim non-album single ‘My Foolish Friend’ produced by Rhett Davies and co-written by Brenner in 1983, the keyboardist left TALK TALK with good old fashioned musical differences cited.

In 1984, Mark Hollis said to Electronics & Music Maker: “Each album should be a definite move on from the one before it. Now y’see some people understand that and other people don’t understand that. Some people think that if you have a hit with something like ‘Today’ then what you should do is maintain that style and that will ensure more hits right?”

Simon Brenner’s departure was to be significant as for TALK TALK’s second album ‘It’s My Life’, Hollis was to find his ideal collaborator in producer Tim Friese-Greene. He had been an unlikely writing partner as his studio credits included STIFF LITTLE FINGERS and somewhat bizarrely TIGHT FIT’s ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, but it was to be the start of a fruitful partnership.

Although the more sonically adventurous ‘It’s My Life’ album sold well in Europe, TALK TALK would not actually have another UK Top20 hit until 1986 with ‘Life’s What You Make It’.

It was here where Hollis headed into the more traditional instrument direction he craved and was to become lauded for with ‘The Colour Of Spring’ album. And as if to prove that TALK TALK were maybe ahead of their time, the ‘It’s My Life’ single finally became the UK Top20 smash it deserved to be on its 1990 re-release to promote the excellent singles compendium ‘Natural History’.

Becoming a reclusive artist in the mould of Scott Walker and David Sylvian, who each also had successful pop careers before venturing into more experimental territory, Mark Hollis left a legacy of artistic ambition over commercial success. But without the latter, as with the aforementioned Walker and Sylvian, it might not have happened.

While ‘The Party’s Over’ is very much of its time, as a result, it still retains much of its charm.

Despite being generally glossed over in TALK TALK history, the album is an excellent under rated synthpop jewel that has aged well, thanks to the quality of its songs and is probably a better body of work than say ‘Quartet’ by ULTRAVOX from the same year.


In memory of Mark Hollis 1955 – 2019

‘The Party’s Over’ is still available in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats via Universal Music

https://spiritoftalktalk.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SpiritOfTalkTalk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Peter Fitzpatrick
2nd December 2019

A Beginner’s Guide To COLIN THURSTON

While Colin Thurston is perhaps not as lauded as Conny Plank, Giorgio Moroder and Trevor Horn, he undoubtedly helped shape the sound of a pioneering musical era.

A jingle writer and jobbing musician, legend has it that he bluffed his way into audio engineering before securing a job with Tony Visconti. Working alongside the legendary producer during his sojourn at Hansa Tonstudio in the Kreuzberg district of West Berlin by the Wall, he experienced a baptism of fire.

There he worked on what became two legendary albums, David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ and Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust For Life’. He impressed enough to be recommended to Virgin Records signings MAGAZINE when they approached Tony Visconti as producer for the follow-up to their debut album ‘Real Life’.

It was this connection to Virgin Records that also led Thurston to work with THE HUMAN LEAGUE on their debut album ‘Reproduction’. Working together on classic League tracks such as ‘Empire State Human’, ‘Almost Medieval’, ‘Blind Youth’, ‘The Path Of Least Resistance’ and a stark cover of ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’, while the union was not a commercial success, Phil Oakey, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh gained valuable experience that would ultimately progress their music careers.

But it was Thurston’s work with DURAN DURAN that was to have the biggest worldwide impact. John Taylor said: “without Colin’s depth of vision, we would never have become the band we became” – under Thurston’s production guidance, DURAN DURAN grew from being a promising New Romantic band with a JAPAN fixation into becoming one of the UK’s biggest music exports to North America.

This was thanks in part to the striking videos accompanying songs such as ‘Girls On Film’, ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ and ‘Save A Prayer’ directed by the likes of Godley & Crème and Russell Mulcahy, all gaining regular rotation on MTV, although DURAN DURAN’s willingness to undertake long periods of Stateside touring also helped their cause.

After working with DURAN DURAN, Thurston also produced albums by TALK TALK, KAJAGOOGOO, and CAMOUFLAGE, although a reunion with THE HUMAN LEAGUE in 1985 on what was intended to be ‘Crash’ came to nought when Virgin Records rejected the results of the recording sessions.

Thurston became an in-house producer for the Canadian label Brouhaha and latterly undertook only occasional production work. There had been talk of Thurston working together again with DURAN DURAN when the classic line-up of Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor and Andy Taylor reunited in 2001, although this came to nothing. Sadly after a long illness, he passed away in January 2007, aged 59.

Photo by Christian Simonpietri

His portfolio indeed reads like a Who’s Who? of popular music. An under rated figure in the successful application of electronic instrumentation within a studio environment, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK looks back at the career of Colin Thurston via eighteen tracks presented in chronological order, with a limit of one track per album project.


IGGY POP Tonight (1977)

Featuring Bowie on ARP Solina and providing his very distinct backing vocals to compliment Pop’s brooding baritone, ‘Tonight’ was a reflective number dealing with the spectre of heroin addiction. Recorded in Berlin, Thurston co-produced and engineered the parent ‘Lust For Life’ album under the collective name of Bewlay Bros with his two star performers.

Available on the IGGY POP album ‘Lust For Life’ via Virgin Records

http://iggypop.com


DAVID BOWIE Heroes (1977)

Engineering alongside producer Tony Visconti, Thurston found himself working with Brian Eno and Robert Fripp to help fully utilise the Frippertronics tape looping technique that provided the celestial triple guitar signature. Melting in alongside swooping EMS Synthi AKS, stabbing Chamberlain brass and swimmy ARP Solina string machine textures, coupled to a most passionate vocal performance, the train ride that was ‘Heroes’ became one of the most iconic David Bowie recordings.

Available on the DAVID BOWIE album ‘Heroes’ via EMI Records

https://www.davidbowie.com


THE MEN I Don’t Depend On You (1979)

As a disco flavoured experiment helmed by Thurston, THE HUMAN LEAGUE recorded ‘I Don’t Depend On You’ under the pseudonym of THE MEN using a drummer, bassist and female backing vocalists, planting the seed for HEAVEN 17 when Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh left in 1980. Released before the ‘Reproduction’ album, while the single wasn’t a hit, a certain Nick Rhodes was listening and included it in his DJ sets at The Rum Runner.

Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records

https://twitter.com/martynware


MAGAZINE Rhythm Of Cruelty (1979)

Howard Devoto and co had initially suggested Tony Visconti as producer of their second long player, but were very happy to have his engineer as a substitute. But nervous about his credentials, Thurston did not reveal this was his first full album production. ‘Rhythm Of Cruelty’ captured the art rock virtuosity of Barry Adamson and John McGeoch, while allowing Dave Formula’s keyboards to shine.

Available on MAGAZINE album ‘Secondhand Daylight’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/magazineofficial/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Circus Of Death (1979)

With a manifesto of “synthesizers and vocals only”, Colin Thurston was the man behind the desk for THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s eagerly awaited debut album. Eerily intro-ed with a taped announcement from Peter Lewis of London Weekend Television that Steve McGarrett from ‘Hawaii Five-O’ was about to arrive on a Hawker Siddeley Trident, the clattering synthetic dystopia and narcotic doom of ‘Circus Of Death’ was delivered with a charismatically sombre baritone by Phil Oakey.

Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Reproduction’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk


LANDSCAPE European Man (1980)

Electronic pioneer Richard James Burgess said: “I think we all embraced this new direction because of our raw excitement over the new technology…We discussed it in the band and everyone was on board so I started working on the lyrics that became ‘European Man’”. Colin Thurston was ideally the man to assist in realising this new direction and interestingly, the rear artwork of the first issue featured an early use of the term “electronic dance music” while the catalogue number was EDM1.

Available on LANDSCAPE album ‘From The Tea-rooms Of Mars To The Hell-holes Of Uranus’ via Cherry Red Records

https://twitter.com/Landscape_band


CLASSIX NOUVEAUX Never Again (1981)

Led by the striking evangelical presence of Sal Solo, CLASSIX NOUVEAUX flirted with New Romanticism and while the eventual third album ‘La Verité’ was self-produced by Solo, the Colin Thurston steered ‘Never Again’ was the lead single. Written by bassist Mik Sweeney, it showcased Solo’s passionate falsetto amongst a barrage of period Simmons drums, synths, octave bass and flanged guitars. While just missing out on being a Top 40 single, it paved the way for ‘Is It A Dream?’ to reach the No11 spot six months later.

Available on the CLASSIX NOUVEAUX album ‘La Verité’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.salsolo.com


DURAN DURAN Planet Earth (1981)

After seeing the promising support act for Hazel O Connor’s 1980 tour, Colin Thurston found his perfect band, one that appealed to both his electronic and art rock sensibilities. Combining the disco sequencer drive of Giorgio Moroder, the funkier groove of CHIC and the anthemic qualities of glam rock, Messrs Le Bon, Rhodes, Taylor, Taylor and Taylor were to be the new romantics who moved beyond “looking for the TV sound” as they became one of the biggest bands on ‘Planet Earth’.

Available on the DURAN DURAN album ‘Duran Duran’ via EMI Records

http://www.duranduran.com


OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING Target For Life (1981)

“We were proud of our musicianship, that we could play complicated parts with precision and speed” said Scott Simon of OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING and having supported DURAN DURAN, they summoned the services of Colin Thurston for their ‘Digital Cowboy’ EP . Eschewing machine percussion for a live drummer in Simon Phillips who played on Thurston’s session with THE MEN, ‘Target For Life’ was the frantic highlight from the five track offering.

Available on the OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING album ‘Nightlife – The Collection’ via EP Music

https://www.discogs.com/artist/106443-Our-Daughters-Wedding


TALK TALK Talk Talk (1982)

It’s bizarre to think now that when TALK TALK first appeared, they were dismissed as nothing more than DURAN DURAN copyists, thanks to their double name, patronage by EMI and production on their debut album ‘The Party’s Over’ by Colin Thurston. Utilising synths and Simmons drums, their eponymous signature song was not actually a hit first time round and following a number of disagreements, Thurston’s name was taken off the credits of the album.

Available on the TALK TALK album ‘The Party’s Over’ via EMI Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/60480-Talk-Talk


DURAN DURAN Rio (1982)

Based around a frantic arpeggio sourced from Nick Rhodes’ Roland Jupiter 4, ‘Rio’ is possibly Colin Thurston’s finest moment as a producer. From utilising a reversed slowed down tape of metal rods being dropped on a grand piano’s strings for the intro and capturing some amazing funky bass work from John Taylor, to the quintet locked in full flow with a rousing chorus and sax driven middle section, it was to become an iconic work both musically and visually.

Available on the DURAN DURAN album ‘Rio’ via EMI Records

https://www.facebook.com/duranduran/


KAJAGOOGOO Too Shy (1983)

Look past the silly haircuts and what you see in ‘Too Shy’ is a very well-produced and well-written pop tune. Limahl had handed over a demo to Nick Rhodes while working as a waiter at London’s Embassy Club. Curious, he took the tape to Colin Thurston and when the band signed to EMI, they were embraced by a teenybop audience. Less happy were the other members of KAJAGOOGOO who had been the more serious ART NOUVEAU and the result as a coup d’état with Limahl ousted as lead singer.

Available on the KAJAGOOGOO album ‘White Feathers’ via EMI Records

http://limahl.com


KISSING THE PINK The Last Film (1983)

A catchy militaristic tune with a profound anti-war statement, London-based combo KISSING THE PINK had wanted Brian Eno as producer, having worked with Martin Hannett on their debut single ‘Don’t Hide In The Shadow’. But their then-label Magnet Records suggested that Colin Thurston would give a more commercial sound and they were proved right when ‘The Last Film’ become a UK Top 20 single, although it was to be the band’s only chart hit.

Available on the KISSING THE PINK album ‘Naked’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.facebook.com/kissingthepink/


HOWARD JONES New Song (1983)

Notably High Wycombe’s most famous son, Howard Jones said of working with Thurston on his debut single: “Warners wanted me in the studio as quick as possible to get something going and Colin was doing very well with DURAN DURAN and KAJAGOOGOO”. With a catchy new song that sounded like a synthpop version of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Solsbury Hill’, Jones got that first hit twhich his label desired although he and Thurston were not to do any further work together.

Available on the HOWARD JONES album ‘Best: 1983 – 2017’ via Cherry Red Records

http://howardjones.com


KAJAGOOGOO Big Apple (1984)

With Limahl gone and working with Giorgio Moroder, Thurston stuck with KAJAGOOGOO, now led by bassist and Chapman stick player Nick Beggs. ‘Big Apple’ was a rousing funky pop punctuated by brass section that allowed the band to show off their musical virtuosity. Interest in KAJAGOOGOO waned afterwards, although Beggs was to become a noted sessioneer, working with Gary Numan, Howard Jones, Steve Hackett and Steven Wilson.

Available on the KAJAGOOGOO album ‘Islands’ via EMI Records

http://www.kajagoogoo.com


GARY NUMAN Your Fascination (1985)

Having not had a happy experience working with Bill Nelson on the ‘Warriors’ album, Gary Numan was open to sharing the studio with an outsider again when the name of Colin Thurston was suggested. The first fruit of labour was the excellent and uncluttered PPG dominated ‘Your Fascination’. However, there was to be no further productions with Thurston as he was in the middle of working with THE HUMAN LEAGUE on the first version of ‘Crash’, which was subsequently scrapped.

Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘New Dreams For Old’ via Eagle Records

https://garynuman.com


FLIP That’s What They Say About Love (1986)

As synthesizers became more passé with the advent of MTV and a desire for American success, Thurston found himself working with more guitar oriented acts like IMMACULATE FOOLS, WESTWON and ATLANTIC while adding his modern studio sheen. One of his more successful productions in this period was with Aylesbury AOR band FLIP whose appealing FM friendly number ‘That’s What They Say About Love’ was a minor hit in The Netherlands.

Originally available on the FLIP album ‘Flip’ via CBS Associated Records, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/878940-Flip-17


CAMOUFLAGE Heaven (1991)

In order to move away from the DEPECHE MODE derived sound of their first two albums ‘Voices & Images’ and ‘Methods Of Silence’, Marcus Meyn and Heiko Maile enlisted session drummer Gavin Harrison and Thurston to capture more of a live feel to their music. ’Heaven’ was certainly looser than previous CAMOUFLAGE recordings although like with DEPECHE MODE not long after, the use of live drums ironically took some of soul and tension out of the band’s sound.

Available on the CAMOUFLAGE album ‘The Singles’ via Polydor Records

http://www.camouflage-music.com/en/News


In Memory of Colin Thurston 1947-2007

https://www.discogs.com/artist/60619-Colin-Thurston


Text by Chi Ming Lai
6th April 2018